1. Review menus and information online
Before you make any reservations or sit down for dinner in Walt Disney World, check out the restaurant’s menu and any additional information you may need to know online. Even if you know the food will interest everyone in the family, be sure that the dining experience as a whole is something that everyone wants to do. For instance, many guests book reservations at Biergarten in Epcot without realizing they will be seated at communal tables with other guests. While this is an authentic biergarten experience, not every guest will be comfortable with this and that’s totally fine, but also something that can be avoided with a bit of extra research.
2. Make advanced dining reservations
If you consider any Disney restaurants to be “must-do’s” make reservations for them in advance. There are really only a handful of restaurants that regularly run out of availability, but even outside of those few most popular options you’re better off being safe and making a reservation if you want to dine somewhere specific.
3. Don’t forget to cancel if you can’t make it
If you change your mind or can’t make the date of your reservation be sure to cancel it. It’s easy to do so right on Disney’s website or the My Disney Experience app. If you do not cancel and you do not show up, you’ll be charged $10/person on the reservation on the card that you used to hold the reservation. This charge is simply an incentive to get guests who can’t make it to cancel so those tables can be available for other guests.
4. Review dress codes and other policies
A few signature restaurants across Walt Disney World have dress codes guests must adhere to. They are not (with the exception of Victoria and Albert’s) black-tie, but they can restrict things like tank tops, swimsuits, and ripped jeans. Victoria and Albert’s at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa is also reserved for guests ages 10 and over.
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5. Plan meals around other events
When planning out your dining reservations or when you will stop for lunch, you may want to take the parks’ entertainment schedules into consideration. For instance, if you have one day to spend in the Magic Kingdom, you may not want to be in a restaurant during the parade. It can take some effort to decipher the entertainment schedules, but it’s worth giving them a look ahead of time to be sure you do not miss out.
6. Use the mobile ordering system
When dining at quick service restaurants, do not forget to take advantage of Disney’s mobile ordering system. You can order and pre-pay for quick service meals right from your smart phone to help you skip the line at the counter and get to your food quicker.
7. Skip the bottled water
One huge money-saving tip when dining in Walt Disney World is to skip the bottled water at quick service restaurant. $3/bottle may not seem like much compared to what water costs at movie theaters and sporting events, but it can certainly add up over the course of a trip. Instead, order complimentary (filtered) tap water.
8. Pace yourself at buffets and family style meals
Buffet and family style all-you-care-to-enjoy experiences at Walt Disney World are on the pricier side, and even if you don’t typically have a large appetite you’ll want to at least try everything to get your money’s worth. Have a taste of everything and go back for seconds of the things you really enjoyed rather than filling up on one or two items.
9. Leave room in your budget for gratuities
Gratuities are not included (even if you are using the Disney Dining Plan) so you’ll need to save room in your budget to factor in gratuities. Thankfully Disney makes the math easy by including the tip amount based on various percentages on each check!
10. Ask for an allergy menu if needed
If you have any kind of dietary restrictions, let your server or the cashier at counter know. Disney is extremely accommodating to all kinds of diets, and even if the menu in front of you doesn’t look promising they can usually whip something up that will satisfy both your taste buds and your dietary needs.
11. Know which discounts are available
If you aren’t sure of discounts that may be available at a certain restaurant, just ask a cast member! Many restaurants offer annual passholder, Disney Vacation Club, Disney Visa, and cast member discounts, and sometimes you can find deals at non-Disney owned restaurants by using a third party rewards program.